São Paulo: The City and The Interior

Sao Paulo skyline
São Paulo skyline (photo credit: Pablo Verdin)

In the year 1554, the Jesuit priests José de Anchieta and Manuel de Nóbrega set up their mission on the banks of the Rio Tietâ.  The name of the mission was São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga.  The mission soon became a trading post.  In 1681, São Paulo became the seat of the regional government; in 1711, it was constituted a municipality by the King of Portugal.  By virtue of its strategic location, São Paulo became the focal point of several successive economic booms --- the coffee boom, the textile boom, the manufacturing boom and the automobile boom.  Today, São Paulo is the business, financial and industrial center of Brazil and accounts for about 40% of the Gross Domestic Product of the country.  It is the largest city in Brazil, indeed of Latin America, and the third largest city in the world.

When the name São Paulo is invoked, one usually thinks about the city.  Yet this city is just part of the state of São Paulo.  About the interior of São Paulo, much less is known.  What do we know?  Here is E. Bradford Burns' introduction to Gilberto Freyre's book that explains the relationship between the city and the rural people:

Freyre correctly emphasizes that the cities, ever larger, more important, and more receptive to change, steadily eroded the influence of the rural aristocracy, thereby diminishing patriarchal authority.  The landowners began to build impressive residences in the cities and, furthermore, to spend considerable time in time.  Thus they lent prestige and authority to the city, enhancing its position.  The government bureaus, export agencies, and banks, rooted in the cities, branched out to exert economic control of the countryside, a trend that accelerated impressively throughout the nineteenth century.  The landowner could make fewer decisions within the confines of the fazenda.  He had to visit the city to consult his banker or his agent; he had to petition a government official for a favor.  If his children were to receive a higher education, they had to remain in the cities, where the sons of the new middle class as well as of the plantation aristocracy enrolled in ever larger numbers in law, medical, engineering, and military schools.  Upon graduation they pursued urban careers, contributing their numbers and their ability to strengthen the city.  After 1870, larger currents of European immigration flowed into Brazil.  A high percentage of these foreigners chose to settle in the cities, where their differing customs and thoughts helped to alter the urban milieu.

São Paulo is also blessed by having plentiful rich and fertile land.  When coffee became an important crop in the 19th century, it was cultivated across the state with an infusion of European immigrant capitalists and laborers.  This dispersed production system had some major beneficial consequences: (1) coffee was grown on small holdings, meaning that the profits were spread widely among the population, thus creating an affluent consumer base for other products; (2) to collect the coffee crops for export, an extensive system of railways was built, most of which were British-financed or British owned, and was used to support other industries.

Sao Paulo
São Paulo
(photo credit: Pablo Verdin)

In this note, our objective is to compare the city of São Paulo against the Interior on a number of consumer characteristics.  We will refer to some survey data collected in the TGI Brasil survey by IBOPE.  This is a consumer survey of 10,103 persons between the ages of 12 and 64 years old interviewed in 1999.  Within this survey, there were 1,708 persons from the city of São Paulo and 1,350 persons from the interior of São Paulo.

First of all, we can look at the socio-economic levels.  In Brazil, the socio-economic class determined by a point-scoring scheme, which credits points for possession of certain household goods and services as well as the education/occupation of the heads of household.  The following table shows the distributions of socio-economic classes by geographical region, and the index is simply 100 times the ratio of the interior percentage divided by the total São Paulo percentage.  On the average, the city dwellers have somewhat higher socio-economic levels.

Socio-economic class % São Paulo city % São Paulo interior Index (=100 * Interior% / Total%)
AB
C
DE
36%
36%
28%
30%
41%
29%
  89
108
103
TOTAL 100% 100% 100

(source:  TGI Brasil, IBOPE)

Socio-economic class is a composite idea consisting of many dimensions.  To understand the underlying dynamics, we present the itemized goods and services within households in the next table.  The city dwellers are more likely to own utility services such as telephones and cable/satellite television, since the infrastructures may not be present in remote locations.  The city dwellers are also more likely to have financial services, since financial institutions may not be present in remote, sparsely populated locations.  In terms of household appliances, the established technologies such as sewing machines, refrigerators and fans are equally prevalent, but the newer technologies such as microwave ovens are more common in the city.  As we have noted elsewhere in Major Urban Area Studies, the leading-edge consumer technologies are initially introduced to the big cities and will take time to diffuse to the interior.

Goods & Services

% São Paulo city % São Paulo interior Index
Household services
     Telephone (wired/cellular)
     Cable/satellite television

60%
17%

56%
12%

96
83
Personal financial services
     Bank savings account
     Bank checking account
     Credit card
     Stock investments

33%
39%
22%
2.8%

25%
35%
17%
1.4%

74
94
85
61
Household appliances owned
     Sewing machine
     Vacuum cleaner
     Refrigerator
     Fan
     Dishwashing machine
     Clothes dryer
     Microwave oven
     Automobile

34%
35%
97%
56%
10%
14%
43%
48%

38%
26%
96%
44%
  7%
10%
31%
49%

107
  82
  99
110
  81
  82
  80
102
Electronic consumer goods
     VCR
     Video camera
     Video game player
     Portable CD player
     Stereo system w/o CD player
     Stereo system w. CD player
     Personal computer
     Computer printer
     Fax machine
     Copier
     Electronic agenda

58%
11%
32%
23%
62%
45%
19%
16%
  8%
2.2%
16%

53%
  7%
29%
16%
59%
42%
14%
12%
  4%
1.5%
11%

  95
  75
  95
  79
  90
  96
  84
  85
  70
  80
  78

(source:  TGI Brasil, IBOPE)

In the next table, we show the participation rates in certain activities.  The city dwellers are more like to engage in these activities, by virtue of their easy access to newspapers, cinemas and internet.  São Paulo city has more top-quality newspapers available and more cinemas offering a great variety of movies.

Activities % São Paulo city % São Paulo interior Index
Read Monday-Saturday newspapers 22% 20% 95
Read Sunday newspapers 32% 28% 94
Attended cinema in last 6 months 25% 20% 87
Used Internet in last 3 months 13% 11% 93

(source:  TGI Brasil, IBOPE)

Finally, in the next section, we have some photos taken in four municipalities of different sizes in the interior of São Paulo.   These photos are not positioned here as objective and truthful representations of these locales in the scientific sense, since there was no particular methodology involved (beyond the fact that these municipalities were selected as primary sampling units in a consumer survey).  Nevertheless, these photos should dispel any notion that the interior of São Paulo consists only of abandoned farm estates and run-down shacks.  Instead, these photos convey the idyllic atmosphere of (or, at the very least, an attempt at) a consumerist society that runs at a pace slower than the hectic lifestyles of the Paulistas.

PHOTO ALBUM OF SAÕ PAULO INTERIOR

Sorocaba (population: 431,561)


Familiar sign of Bradesco,
the large Brazilian
consumer bank ...


... which has competition
in this city from Banco Safra

Tree-lined residential street
with industrial structure
in background

A street with 
unfinished pavement,
a house with satellite dish

Presidente Prudente (population: 165,484)


In smaller cities, the transportation hub is the bus depot.  This one comes with a Marlboro sign outside.

In the middle of the day,
the streets are virtually empty
in a city with a slower rhythm
of life

A pastoral touch
with a horse-drawn
carriage down an asphalt road

A neat fenced house
with a tree in front

Batatais (population: 47,996)


The bus depot
in this city

A carefully manicured
figure of Christ on the cross.
Is that an UFO in the sky?

Nicely built two-story
home with excellent
construction materials

A car in a fenced garage,
in a home equipped
with Directv satellite dish

Cardoso (population: 12,282)


The obligatory church
in the center of town

A picnic area for
the general public

A home with a swimming pool and a large satellite dish

A well-maintained home 
with a large satellite dish

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(posted by Roland Soong on 7/03/00)


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